Northern Ireland health staff honoured for leading fight against Covid

·5-min read

A host of health workers from Northern Ireland have been honoured by the Queen following a year in which they have led the fight against the Covid pandemic.

Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health Richard Pengelly said he is absolutely thrilled to be made a Companion of the Order of the Bath, an honour which he regards as recognition of the work of so many people in the health service.

The 2022 New Year Honours list also includes 85-year-old Jimmy Chapman, a porter at Lisburn Health Centre, who receives a British Empire Medal (BEM), John Johnston, deputy secretary of the Healthcare Policy Group at the Department for Health, who is made a CBE, and Wendy Anderson, a respiratory consultant, who is made an MBE.

Ms Anderson, who works in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said a lot of pressure during the pandemic fell on respiratory teams.

She said: “I work with a fantastic team of respiratory colleagues, a team of seven in Antrim and nine if you include Causeway. When this was coming, we all worked on our protocols and stepped up our weekends and everybody had everybody’s back.”

Mr Pengelly told the PA news agency: “My eldest son graduated just at the start of lockdown in early 2020 in Salford but his ceremony was postponed and postponed.

“It was rescheduled for November 30. I was in the departure lounge at the (Belfast) City Airport for my first flight in two years when my phone pinged, and it was the email from the Cabinet Office (about the honour). It was the icing on the cake of a wonderful couple of days getting over to see my son’s graduation.

“This has been the most challenging role I have ever held, constantly pressurised, constantly difficult, but the high moments are so high in terms of some of the achievements, when we actually roll out a new service or make some inroads, because of the impact it has on people’s lives.

“You’re working with so many professionals who have dedicated a lifetime to studying, achieving professional excellence – it really is a leadership role rather than a doing role, trying to harness the huge potential of 65,000 people across our health and social care system.

“I have spent a lot of time trying to get out and around the system, to hospitals, GP practices, community services, and every single time I go out I come away humbled by the compassion, dedication and just sheer effort of colleagues at all levels across the system.

“Sometimes there is a lazy narrative that health and social care is really about the doctors and nurses, and the doctors and nurses are absolutely fantastic and I hold them in the highest regard, all our allied health professionals, our porters, the catering and cleaning staff, the administrators, finance, HR, they are all part and parcel of that continuum of health care.

“Hopefully part of this award is recognition for those people that maybe aren’t in the spotlight, but without them we wouldn’t provide healthcare.”

Lisburn Health Centre porter Jimmy Chapman has been awarded the BEM in the New Year Honours (Liam McBurney/PA)
Lisburn Health Centre porter Jimmy Chapman has been awarded the BEM in the New Year Honours (Liam McBurney/PA)

Lisburn Health Centre porter Jimmy Chapman was so surprised when he received his notification of the BEM that he originally thought the letter was a court summons.

He said: “I was really, really pleased that somebody thought that much of me to put me up for this award. I was delighted, over the moon. It is the first award I have ever got.

“It has all been a secret up to now, but it does mean a lot to me and it will mean a lot to my family.”

This year’s honours list also sees recognition for victims campaigner Kenny Donaldson, who is made an MBE, which he has dedicated to all innocent victims of terrorism.

And Sean McCarry, regional commander for the Community Rescue Service in Northern Ireland, is made an OBE.

He said: “For me it is very simple – this is a recognition not of myself but of the community who support the rescue service, the many volunteers, their families, for those, past and present, who have been involved, who built up this organisation.”

Community Rescue Service regional commander Sean McCarry is made an OBE (Liam McBurney/PA)
Community Rescue Service regional commander Sean McCarry is made an OBE (Liam McBurney/PA)

Ian Marshall, the first unionist politician ever elected to the Irish Seanad, has been honoured with an OBE.

He said: “I had no idea I had even been nominated, it came completely out of the blue.

“I was completely blindsided by this.”

Northern Ireland artist, illustrator and writer Oliver Jeffers, who now lives in New York, has been made an MBE.

He said: “I’m greatly honoured to receive this MBE for services to the arts.

“I did not see it coming, and it invigorates me to continue using the power of art and stories to simplify the human message of connectedness.

“It is humbling to think of the people who have won this internationally recognised honour and to be included in their ranks.

“It is a recognition shared with the team around me, who help me do what I do and get my work out into the world.”

A number of Northern Ireland’s leading sporting figures have also been recognised, with six times world superbike champion Jonathan Rea becomes an OBE as does six time Paralympic gold medallist Bethany Firth.

Six time Paralympic gold medallist sprinter Jason Smyth becomes an MBE, while former Olympian James McIlroy is awarded the BEM for services to sport.

Boxing coach Paul Johnston is made an MBE for his work as a mentor to hundreds of young people, and Fred Magee, club secretary for Harland & Wolff Harriers, also becomes an MBE.

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